The Linguist

The Linguist 57-6 - Dec/Jan 2019

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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16 The Linguist Vol/57 No/6 2018 FEATURES and 'a soldier's wife is always a widow' (dandige hodavana hendathi yendidaru munde), meaning 'marry a soldier, marry fear'. The concept of widowhood is abundant in the proverbs of most Indian languages and it is easy to find equivalence within these languages. The difficulty arises when they are to be translated into languages where widow remarriage is not a cultural offence. Common sayings such as 'A widow's mouth cannot be shut' must then be handled with sensibility. A literal translation fails to convey the fear of widowhood and the societal indifference widows face, and may confuse the reader. Mother language Another cultural element is the concept of thavaru. After marriage, a girl/woman leaves her mother's home and lives in her husband's house. On special occasions, a person from her mother's household should come and invite her; only then will she be allowed to go to her mother's place. Traditionally, a wife is made to do all the chores at home without any rest, sometimes until she bears a son, so she will yearn to visit her mother's house. With this in mind, a translator has to study the sayings 'there are no stones and thorns on the way to one's mother's house' (tavarura dariyali kallilla mullilla), meaning 'enthusiasm overrides all hurdles'; and 'to go to one's mother's house in her absence is to stand in cold water' (hadadavva illada tavarige hodare adimyage vasti ilidange), meaning 'where there is no love, there is no respect'. Translations of culturally sensitive sayings such as these are best annotated in most cases. Traditionally, a mother-in-law is supposed to be critical in her views and has the 'right' to humiliate or ill-treat her daughter-in-law, while the daughter-in-law is expected to maintain the family peace. They never complement each other. This appears strange in cultures where a wife never lives with her in-laws. So there is difficulty in translating: 'a daughter-in- law wearing eyeliner brought misery to her mother-in-law' (kadigeganna sose atthege sankata tandalu), meaning 'one's beauty brings insecurity to others'. Again this is about the family system. If the son's attention is caught by the beauty of his wife, his mother feels insecure about losing her grip on family matters. A literal translation of this proverb fails to convey the complex relationship between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. Caste aside? Caste is another aspect of Indian culture which causes difficulties for the translator. A person is first recognised by their caste, even if they have achieved the highest status in society by educational qualifications, knowledge or talent. Each caste has its own identity. The dress code, beliefs, rituals, ways of speech, "I n translating one must venture to the edge of what is untranslatable. It is only then that one becomes aware of the foreign nation and the foreign language," Goethe told us in his Maxims and Reflections. Cultural untranslatability occurs when a situational feature relevant for the source- language text is absent from the culture of the target-language text. Dealing with the hurdles of culture in translating proverbs is interesting. Proverbs encompass the reality of day-to-day human existence: relationships, food habits, health, dress codes, nature, agriculture, occupations, beliefs, religious nuances and scientific knowledge handed down by generations. A word-for-word translation becomes difficult in such cases. One key concept in Indian society that presents particular difficulties when it comes to translating proverbs is the idea of widowhood. In India, a widow has no respectable status; she is expected to dress in a particular way, and she is not allowed to attend social gatherings, where she is considered a 'bad omen'. Even today, a widow's remarriage raises eyebrows. In Kannada, a Dravidian language spoken predominantly in Karnataka state, we say 'there are 12 widows in the house of an astrologer' (shastra yalluvana maneyalli hanneredu jana mundeyaru), meaning 'misfortunes visit even a preacher's house'; Thriveni C Mysore considers the challenges of translating proverbs immersed in Indian culture A proverbial headache

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